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LAKE DELTON — The inauguration of a five-star VIP wing at the Ho-Chunk Casino and Convention Center is a step forward in an economic vision that benefits the Ho-Chunk and their neighbors, tribal officials said Thursday.

A crowd of dignitaries, Ho-Chunk Nation officials and hotel staff assembled Thursday morning for the ribbon-cutting ceremony to open up a 10-room luxury section of the casino/convention center hotel.

Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells Executive Manager Jones Funmaker Sr. said the new wing is a step forward for the business, putting it on a level to compete with the best in the gaming and hospitality industries.

"The dream is to run with the big dogs, like I say," he said. "Like Harrah’s, they’re the big dog."

Hotel Executive Manager John Warner said 22 regular hotel rooms were remodeled into six rooms with single, king-size beds and four rooms featuring two queen-size beds. The wing has a VIP lounge and is accessible only by VIP guests.

The VIP wing also will be uniquely Ho-Chunk with custom-designed beds and linens, and a line of herbal bath products from Sister Sky.

"Sister Sky is a line of Native American herbal shampoos and lotions," he said. "So they will be doing our amenities, our shampoos, our facial scrubs."

The suites feature jacuzzi tubs, walk-in showers and living rooms with fireplaces and eating areas. Other five-star features of the VIP wing include turn down services, full bell service and 24-hour valet services, Warner said.

"Those are for our elected officials, tribal dignitaries, famous actors, musicians and so forth that would be staying with us," he said. "Our highest-level tier players would be up here in the VIP wing."

The Ho-Chunk Casino and Convention Center is seeking recognition of the wing’s five-star status through independent rating agencies, Warner said.

Ho-Chunk Nation President Wilfrid Cleveland said it has taken a lot of work and planning to improve the casino/hotel’s accommodations. He added the gaming industry has made important contributions to the economic needs of the Ho-Chunk people.

"Not only the Ho-Chunk people, but the community, all the surrounding area here of Baraboo, Wisconsin Dells, Lake Delton, you name it," Cleveland said.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony Ho-Chunk Elder Cleo Mountain was among those touring the rooms and she gasped a little as she stepped into one.

"It’s awesome," she said. "How could you just stay just one night?"